Student out to curb Africa myths

Dylan You - Staff Reporter



The notion of Africa being an arid continent with countless poor, uneducated and disease ridden people living in mud huts could not be further from the truth, said the president of the African Student Association.

A major goal of the club is to help everyone have a better understanding of the cultures of Africa.

Everlyne Maina, a native Kenyan, has been asked during her stay in the United States all sorts of stereotypical questions regarding her continent.

Many people think of Africa as a single nation, not a collection of 54 diverse countries with more than 2,000 languages spoken. Each language represents its own culture and history.

She's been asked if she lived in mud huts, has AIDS or suffered from starvation back home in Kenya.

But Maina did not come to Highline from poverty. Nor did she enter as a refugee. Instead, she comes from wealth. Her father, Stephen Maina, works with the minister of lands, owns a mining company and is running for election as a member of parliament.

"I've never lacked food in my entire life," Maina said. "People perceive all of Africa as poor, but it's not."

Because she became involved with the Red Cross, she got to travel to the various countries all over Africa. Not once did she see the dark skeleton-like figures many have come to expect.

"They're not on the ground dying," she said. "They try as much to sustain, but they're not poor-poor. It's there, but it's not extreme poverty."

Maina was disturbed when hit with another misinformed question: Someone had asked her if she has AIDS.

"It bothers me," she said. "It's something that affects me. They just see Africa as this big place with AIDS. Sometimes it's just ridiculous."

After graduating high school, Maina opted for a change of scenery by coming to the United States as an international student.

"I came to America because I wanted to learn about the outside world," she said.

"Back in high school, no one could forget me," she said. "I was in drama, choir, dance and debate."

Despite being outside the comfort of her home continent, Maina is still involving herself with the community at Highline by creating a place where Africans can talk about African issues and to connect with other African descendants. One of her vehicles for this is the African Student Association.

"We all contribute, sharing information like how to cope with situations as an African student," she said. "This club is for Africans and anyone who wants to get involved in the African community."

The 30 members of the club meet every two weeks on Thursdays 2 to 4 p.m in Building 8, room 302.

"We socialize, listen to African music, dance to [the music of] more than 50 African countries and we try to learn about each country," she said. "We talk about how to go about daily activities as an African and issues that are coming up about Africa."

"There's not an African Club that talks about Africa," she said. "It's kind of like bringing home over here."

One of the ways she intends to do that is through a community outreach. Maina said once the club is certified, the members plan to teach high schoolers all around Washington about African cultures.

The club will also give Highline students a taste of African cultures during Spring Quarter's annual GlobalFest.

Beyond educating people about African cultures, they will also volunteer at women's shelters.

"I'm proud to be in the USA," Maina said. "I want to be more involved the community and right now I'm building a foundation at Highline."

For more information, students may contact Maina at everlynemuthoni@students.highline.edu.



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